Recap of Wild Card Weekend

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31 Years Later

That’s how long it has been since the Cincinnati Bengals had won a playoff game. Obviously they were due. Their current head coach, Zac Taylor, has been much maligned with records of 2-14 and 4-11-1 in his first two seasons. Winning the division in his third season when no one expected them to makes up for a lot of that. Also having a reliable quarterback in Joe Burrow isn’t bad either. If you ignore the obvious flaws in the referee crew during their Wild Card game against the Las Vegas Raiders, you would see this team has the makings of something that could last. It’s a testament to how this roster was put together and they could surprise some next week. It would also help if the opposing quarterback i.e, Raiders QB Derek Carr, throws the potential game tying touchdown pass two yards short of the end zone again. Cincinnati impressed and they could do it again in the Divisional Round.

7 For 7

It was a furious start to the game, but the Buffalo Bills proved one thing in their third contest against the New England Patriots; They weren’t afraid of them. Seven possessions and seven touchdowns for the Bills. QB Josh Allen threw 5 TD passes and completed 21 of 25 pass attempts. The Bills defense was just as impressive when safety Micah Hyde ran a long way to intercept Patriots QB Mac Jones in the end zone just as they were driving into Buffalo’s territory for their first possession. This performance bodes well for the Bills as they now head to Kansas City for a rematch in Arrowhead from earlier in the season. In that game Buffalo thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball and showed the flaws the Chiefs needed to fix going forward. Buffalo was always a contender this season and proved it during the Wild Card matchup.

It Wasn’t Pretty

Even though the Philadelphia Eagles scored 15 consecutive points to end the game in the 4th quarter, this game wasn’t close. If Eagles QB Jalen Hurts had been more accurate on throws of 10 yards or more, I would be talking about a different outcome. Nevertheless the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in control. Tom Brady was sacked 4 times with the offensive line a big banged up and they were running the ball more than I thought they would with their 3rd and 4th string running backs. Those were the blemishes against an opponent in the Eagles who couldn’t solve the problem of scoring points against the Bucs defense until it was too late. This is a good sign for Tampa Bay to see them getting healthier on defense as they will need them once again if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Two Things I Learned From This Game

“They might be able to get away with it against the NFC East, but it won’t work in January.”

The quote above was from my Week 6 Review of the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys beat the New England Patriots in overtime. The context of that quote is the fact that the Cowboys play in the worst division in the NFL, the NFC East. I argued that their talent was far superior than their division opponents and that they wouldn’t win on talent alone when the playoffs started.

Case in point to their Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had a 23-7 lead going into the 4th quarter. It was 23-10 after the Cowboys kicked a field goal with 11:58 left in the game. If 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo hadn’t thrown an interception on the following possession, a potential Cowboys comeback wouldn’t have transpired. Credit to Dallas for capitalizing on the mistake.

Alas, going back to the title of this as to what I learned from this game. One is in reference to what I mentioned. Garoppolo will not be back with the 49ers next year. Full disclosure, I am a Niners fan, but I am also realistic. Short of winning the Super Bowl this year, he won’t be back. Too many fumbles and interceptions this year in games that they did win or should have won had he not make said mistakes. The second thing I learned is that the Cowboys are once again a flawed team. Too many stupid mistakes. Fourteen penalties called and many of them were drive killers on offense or drive extenders on defense. And the biggest mistake of all was running a quarterback sneak up the middle when Dallas had no timeouts and 14 seconds left in the game. Everyone knows that the referee is supposed to down the ball, but they failed to give the referee the ball in time in order to spike it. Thus ending any chance of a last second throw to potentially tie the game.

And as an added bonus, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott with this gem:

Way to go Dak. Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee material.

Update: Dak Prescott’s apology on January 18. Two days after the game.

Even if I wasn’t a 49ers fan the following statement would still be true after watching this game. San Francisco was the better team. Dallas showed exactly who they were.

Fun fact: The Jacksonville Jaguars have more playoff wins than the Dallas Cowboys since 1996, the first year the Jaguars made the playoffs.

It Shouldn’t Have Been This Easy

Even most Pittsburgh Steelers fans’ would admit that their team should not have been in the playoffs this year. But thanks to the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh is here and they returned to Kansas City. The site of a 36-10 Chiefs win against Pittsburgh in Week 16 of the regular season. The start of this Wild Card game was different than that Week 16 matchup. Yet, it only delayed the inevitable. Kansas City scored 35 unanswered points and this was how Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s career was going to end. With a blowout loss in the Wild Card. He will be on his way to Canton, Ohio and the NFL Hall of Fame. For the Chiefs they now have a date with Buffalo and what will perhaps be the game of the Divisional Round.

One Team Was Not Like The Other

If there was a theme from Wild Card Weekend it was that there were some teams that just didn’t belong in the playoffs this year. You usually see one or two sprinkled in, but this year there were quite a few. One of them was the Arizona Cardinals. The Los Angeles Rams jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half and judging by the body language of the Cardinals players and the head coach Kliff Kingsbury for that matter they were done. The Cardinals defense played admirable, but they couldn’t stop the Rams rushing attack. Arizona thought they were better suited to attempt long pass plays that took too long to develop when they didn’t have their best receiver, DeAndre Hopkins available for this game. Bold move Kingsbury. Looks like it didn’t work out for you. Of all the teams to be eliminated from the Wild Card round, Arizona was the most flawed of them all. Even if Hopkins was available it wouldn’t have mattered. The Rams were clearly the better team and now they have to prove it next week in Tampa Bay.

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